Spotlight: Nilda Garcia, Sagrado Corazón

Nilda Garcia and Sagrado Corazón: HealthStar’s Spanish-Speaking Support Service

Spanish-speaking Clients of HealthStar are very familiar with Nilda Garcia. She is the warm and caring voice of the Sagrado Corazón (Sacred Heart) program for Latino Clients of HealthStar. For 10 years, Nilda has been putting her “special touch” on everything that she does, from event planning to office organization and troubleshooting IT problems. With her recent promotion to Program Manager of Sagrado Corazón, Nilda is ready for action with renewed energy and focus. Nilda, the HealthStar Spotlight is on you!

A little history

Nilda has been with HealthStar since 2008, when she started as an Assistant Program Coordinator in HealthStar’s basement suite on Bloomington and 21st. Then, in 2009, Nilda helped open the West St. Paul office – the original home of Sagrado Corazón. But don’t get too comfortable, Nilda! Just a year later, HealthStar moved from the location on 21st into another building on Franklin Ave in Minneapolis. The West St. Paul office merged into the new location as well.

Nilda made the Franklin office her new home as an Assistant Program Development Liaison. She worked in the community and continued as primary contact for Sagrado Corazón. During the next 2 years, Nilda helped HealthStar achieve Medicare certification and had a front-row seat for the beginning of HealthStar’s Mental Health initiative. In 2010, Nilda watched Corporate move from Maplewood to a new building in North St. Paul. Then, In 2017, the Franklin office moved to a new location in Inver Grove Heights. Once again, Nilda unpacked and organized a new space. This new location is beautiful, with big windows and lots of wild turkeys outside! It’s a great place to re-focus and re-energize. Throughout all these changes, Nilda’s positive attitude and sense of humor kept her office mates in good spirits!

 Nilda, how do you do it all?

So, what makes Nilda tick? How can she weather all these changes and still be a constant source of positive energy? A secret about Nilda – she has superpowers. Lots of them. I’ll tell you about some, but you must promise not to say that I told you. Nilda doesn’t like to be the center of attention and won’t want everyone talking about her special abilities.

Superpower #1

Nilda’s first superpower is that she is amazing with event planning. She loves to get people together and celebrate! Nilda’s smile and laugh bring light and joy to the group. She is a great cook and loves to try new foods. Nilda says that her favorite thing about HealthStar is the family atmosphere. Working here is like working at a family gathering, because you’re surrounded by happy people who care about each other. Nilda fondly remembers when a special Client celebrated her 100th birthday last year – with Nilda at the party, of course! Nilda especially loves planning events for Sagrado Corazón, because she gets to use one of her other superpowers – the Latina superpower!

Superpower #2

Nilda’s Latina superpower comes from her family in South Texas, on the border of Mexico. Nilda loves to celebrate her Latina roots with the Sagrado Corazón team. She is always willing to help teach a little Spanish on the side, which has been one of my personal favorite things about working with Nilda. She is a very lenient Spanish teacher, unlike Cristina Hernandez, Corporate and Twin Cities Skilled Admin – also a superpowered Latina, but much stricter in the Spanish-speaking department! A little-known fact is that Nilda is close friends with Cristina’s mother, Marisol. Get them together, and I can only imagine the cooking and laughing!

Superpower #3

The last superpower that I will reveal about Nilda is that she is a multi-talented and very organized superheroine. She processes payroll, troubleshoots technology issues, and answers phones in two languages (backing up the lovely and talented Barbara Edwards at IGH), all while drinking her French vanilla coffee and running around in her high heels. Nilda is a positive force at the Inver Grove office, keeping things fun and exciting for the team. She has a fabulous sense of humor and is not afraid to pull pranks to get everyone in a good mood. She once dressed up the CPR dummy and scared RN Sue Schaber by leaving it in the bathroom overnight. Boy, was Sue surprised when she came in early thinking she had the office to herself!

Nilda says that her greatest accomplishment at HealthStar is learning to walk in another person’s shoes. She appreciates learning with her team and is grateful for the opportunities that HealthStar offers for personal and professional growth. She knows that she has great things ahead with Sagrado Corazón, and is looking forward to putting renewed focus and energy into the program. We hope you’ll check out what Sagrado Corazón has to offer, and learn more about our awesome team!

Spotlight: Nissa Fougner, Rehab Therapies

We all have days when we don’t feel motivated or just can’t get going on a project. We’ve all felt sluggish and tired, or maybe even <gasp> a little cranky. Some people are far less obvious about this than others. We know they must have bad days, too, but we can’t tell when it happens. Think about the people you know. There’s probably someone who never seems down and out, and who always has a smile and a little pep in her step. For HealthStar Corporate, this is Nissa Fougner. She is a ray of sunshine from morning till closing time. Quick to smile and always full of energy, she flits to and fro like a healing honey bee, spreading the sweetness of optimism, better health, and rehab plans all along her path.

A little history

Nissa grew up in International Falls, MN. She’s as midwestern as it gets – she has experience giving skating lessons and coaching figure skating. She found a passion for rehab therapy while she was in college at Gustavus. Home care won her heart with the promise of flexibility. Nissa also loves that she gets to see her clients in their own home environment, where she can start making a positive impact right from the first visit. Each client has unique needs as well as a unique situation, and Nissa is proud of the improved quality of life that she helps her clients achieve.

Nissa first worked with HealthStar as a contractor doing therapy case review. After she heard the legend of the HealthStar Potluck, she converted and became one of us! (at least, we think it was the potluck legend…) Nissa has been working in the Corporate office as Director of Rehab Services since February 2018. She is so quiet that a lot of our staff didn’t realize she had moved in until July. Nissa’s favorite thing about HealthStar is the people, because “everyone is so friendly and helpful.” That’s why we call it the HealthStar family! We’re pleased to have Nissa on our team, and we’d like tell you about a few of her amazing skills. Nissa, the HealthStar spotlight’s on you!

The skill to celebrate small victories

So often, we celebrate only after a task is completed, forgetting to celebrate the milestones that pass along the way. Nissa doesn’t let those milestones pass in silence! She has a talent for appreciating and recognizing progress, even small progress, toward big achievements. She breaks down big, challenging goals into smaller, more approachable pieces. There is an old proverb that says, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” By looking at the little steps instead of the miles, Nissa gets people moving! Acknowledging progress along the path makes Nissa an encouraging coach and teacher, and helps her clients to stay motivated even when there is still a long way left to go.

The skill of humility

I haven’t known Nissa for a long time, but I have already learned that she is very modest. She is somewhat reserved, although she can crack a joke or two when she’s feeling feisty. Even when she is given a direct compliment, she half brushes it off and half explains it away. For example, the secret to always looking like you just stepped out of a chic boutique – it’s not “yeah, I know, I’m an amazing shopper,” but instead it’s a laundry tip. Wash your clothes on the cold/gentle cycle, and always line dry.

Nissa takes this same sense of place into the community when she meets with Clients. Meeting her for the first time, you might feel as relaxed as you would with an old friend. She keeps a low profile, and never casts a judgmental glance. Gentle, respectful, and mild-mannered, Nissa makes her mark by smiling us all into a calm and tranquil state of comfort and positivity. After being around Nissa, I challenge you not to feel better than you did before!

The skill to be absolutely adorable

Everything about Nissa says, “I’m safe and friendly.” She’s like the human equivalent of a daisy or a kitten. Corporate staff love to see what she’ll be wearing each day, and we all want to know her secrets to beautiful skin and hair! She always looks put together and approachable; she makes people around her smile just by being there. This combination is fabulous, considering that her goal is motivating the heck out of her Clients! Her easy smile and comfortably classy wardrobe set Nissa’s clients at ease, but all the while she sneakily (and very gently) pushes them to meet and surpass their goals.

But how strong is she?

Nissa has demonstrated her strength while also giving a short lesson on proper form for changing out the Culligan water jug in the Corporate office. By size and weight, the Culligan water jug outranks Nissa two to one. Nissa says, the proper technique for lifting something that’s larger and heavier than you are is to hold it close to the body, lift with your legs, brace your core, and hope that you don’t injure anything important. (ok, ok – she didn’t say the part about not injuring anything important, but I think it should be mentioned.)

She’s not just strong in body. Nissa has great experience in therapies, and she provides wisdom and encouragement to HealthStar’s therapy staff. HealthStar’s rehab therapy program is in great hands!

Put it all together – she’s perfect for Rehab Therapies!

Nissa is like a cool, sparkling stream – strong enough to turn a boulder into a pebble, but gentle and inviting enough for a refreshing soak of legs and feet on a hot day. Like the stream, she doesn’t seek credit or acclaim. She takes pride in helping others reach their goals, knowing that their success is her success as well. HealthStar is stronger (and more charming) with Nissa leading rehab therapies! We are so lucky to have her on our team!

 

Understanding Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s contributes up to 80% of dementia cases nationwide, and is a terrifying diagnosis. When faced with the possibility of total memory loss and death, it’s understandable to be worried about this degenerative illness. After receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, recognizing the first signs and symptoms, as well as understanding all available treatment options, can help the care process moving forward quicker and easier.

Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging, and is not just a part of getting old. Some memory loss can be contributed to the eventual aging-process, but Alzheimer’s is a much bigger problem. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, meaning that individuals who are affected will have worsening symptoms with no chance of recovery. Because there is currently no cure, the best option available is to slow the symptoms and continue to improve quality of life for those affected. Most families look to qualified, compassionate, and trained caregivers to assist in the day-to-day tasks of an Alzheimer’s patient. Having an understanding and efficient home aid, or transferring a patient in to an assisted living facility can greatly increase their quality of life by allowing them autonomy over their daily living with increased assistance. Getting the help needed for Alzheimer’s disease in Minnesota is easy—and finding the right assistance can be a life-saver.

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

  1. Forgetting important dates, asking for information again and again, or not remembering family members’ names.
  2. Sudden inability to solve problems, like balancing a checkbook, or cooking a family recipe. They may also take much longer to complete tasks that were previously easy.
  3. Cannot complete or remember how to do daily tasks that they frequently did previously, like working the television remote, or the rules of a game.
  4. Can no longer understand times and dates, as well as seasons. They may forget a planned outing altogether, or not comprehend when it is happening. They may also suddenly realize they can’t remember how or when they arrived somewhere.
  5. Difficulty reading or understanding visual information. This includes lack of depth perception, or loss of contrast in vision.
  6. Loss of words or their meaning. An affected individual may call things by the wrong name, or make up a word. They often lose their place in conversations, and repeat themselves several times.
  7. Often, they will misplace things and be unable to remember where they put them, or even when they had the item last. This may lead to accusations of stealing and frustration.
  8. Poor judgment is another warning sign—if the person makes poor choices when handling money, and struggles to remember to bathe regularly.
  9. Suddenly become withdrawn from work or social activities, or no longer enjoy hobbies, projects, or sports that they once loved.
  10. Changes in mood and personality are warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. If the patient appears depressed, anxious, or more easily frustrated than usual, it may be time to talk to a doctor who specializes in Alzheimer’s disease in Duluth.

If you have a loved one showing any of the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, know that HealthStar can help! We offer free in-home consultations to help find the right care for your loved one. For more information, please call 612-871-3700.

A Day in the Life of a Psychiatric Field Nurse

7:00 am: Amelia Muir, psychiatric home care nurse begins her day by logging into her laptop. After checking e-mails and confirming appointment times with patients, Amelia is ready to enter the field for her four scheduled home visits in Queens, New York. Queens, a borough of New York City, is home to more than 2 million residents and is considered one of the most diverse areas in the country.

8:00 am: Amelia’s first visit is to see Ms. A., a 62-year-old woman who has been living with HIV for the past 25 years. Ms. A. was referred to Amelia by her caseworker, who noticed signs of depression and anxiety following a recent hospital admission. For the first 30 minutes of the visit, Amelia provides counseling to Ms. A. using cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, which aim to help her reframe negative thought patterns and begin to change ineffective coping mechanisms. After her patient has had the opportunity to express her feelings openly, Amelia shifts the visit to focus on specific symptoms she and Ms. A’s doctors have been closely monitoring. The home care visit is a vital way to keep doctors updated on a patient’s condition as many patients feel certain symptoms are either not important enough to call their doctors or nurses about.

The last 15 minutes of Amelia’s visit with her patient focuses on goal setting and educating the patient about her recommendations for whatever issue they had been discussing. In addition to patient-centered goal setting, Amelia also adds her own suggestions, such as taking a walk around the neighborhood with the home health aide for exercise and stress relief, calling an old friend, or taking time to sit down with a good book. “Many of my depressed patients are in need of more joy in their lives. It may seem overly simple but with the right frame of mind, escaping into a novel or a hobby can have noticeable effect on someone’s mood.” To close the visit, Amelia reviews a list of important symptoms to report to her nurse or doctor with Ms. A. Establishing good communication between patient, nurse, and doctor helps prevent hospitalizations by addressing issues at the earliest appearance. Ms. A. tearfully hugs Amelia at the end of most visits and thanks her for her support. The authentic relationship established between clinician and patient after weeks or months of working together cannot be understated.

Back in her car and mobile office, Amelia checks voicemails and e-mails from other clinicians and patients. Between every visit, arise that require careful coordination. It is often said in the office that being in the patient’s home is the easy part, meaning the real work is often done by clinicians behind the scenes. The case management aspect of home care nursing can drive the stress level up in this specialty.

10:00 am: Amelia’s next patient is Ms. G., a 74-year-old who is experiencing a high level of anxiety because of her progressing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis disease. Amelia has been coming for several weeks after Ms. G.’s daughter begged her to accept psychiatric treatment when she noticed her mother’s motivation to care for herself significantly declined. The first half of the visit is again focused on allowing the patient to have time to express her feelings openly to her nurse. Ms. G. describes how her breathing has become more difficult. One of the interventions Amelia teaches her is how to preform deep abdominal breathing exercises to decrease anxiety and improve lung expansion. She also recommends that Ms. G. play classical music during this exercise to give an added stress-relieving quality. After reviewing goals for the week and target symptoms to report, Amelia begins a short relaxation exercise with the help of aromatherapy oils and acupressure. “I love home care because I have more flexibility to try different strategies with my patients.” Using a simple acupressure technique on both hands creates a calming sensation for Ms. G. She teachers her how to use this technique on her own.

Technology is also an important part of Amelia’s teaching strategies for patients who have access to computers or tablets. Ms. G. was an accountant before she retired 3 years ago and is part of a growing group of tech-savvy seniors. On and earlier visit, Amelia helped Ms. G. explore Web sites, such as YouTube, that provide free instructional videos on topics relevant to the wellness teaching she provides including guided meditation, chair yoga for seniors, and breathing exercises. Ms. G. is also learning to use her tablet for recreation, “I love the videos of the New York City Ballet. It brings me back to when I could move like that!”

1:00 pm: At a nearby apartment complex, Amelia greets her next patient’s wife, who is the primary caregiver for her husband. Mr. C. is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease and has been experiencing many behavioral changes that have caused great stress for his wife. Amelia sits down with the couple in their brightly lit kitchen and reviews symptoms over the past week. During her visits, Amelia explains the different stages of his illness, communication techniques, safety precautions, tips for managing insomnia, and encourages Ms. C. to keep her husband’s mind stimulated with structured activities and recreation. Another important topic Amelia covers is caregiver burnout and she encourages Ms. C. to take time for herself whenever possible.

3:00 pm: For her last visit, Amelia visits Mr. B., a man in his late 50s who is now homebound as a result of Parkinson’s disease. Despite increasing physical challenges, Mr. B. is determined to stay as independent as possible and spends 3 days per week doing intensive treatments with a physical therapist. Amelia visits this patient every 2 weeks to fill his medication box as muscle weakness in his hands prevents him from doing this for himself. Mr. B. updates Amelia on symptoms over the past week and excitedly discusses his progress with his rehabilitation program. Amelia finishes the visit with a quick check on his vital signs.

At the end of her visit, Amelia returns back to her car to make the trek back to her home where she will complete her visit notes and make some final calls to doctors. After another emotion-filled day, Amelia tries a breathing exercise of her own. “Helping patients with depression and anxiety can take an emotional toll on clinicians and it’s vital for me to have self-care rituals so that I don’t become burned out,” adding “I want to do this work for the rest of my career and my goal is to take good care of myself along the way.”

Written by Amelia Muir, BSN, RN-BC

Amelia Muir is a Psychiatric Field Nurse, Behavioral Helath, Visiting Nurse Service of New York, New York City, New York.

Managing Holiday Stress

For some, the holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year” but for those with mental health issues, seniors and caregivers, it’s also a time that manifests hopelessness and loss. People often get caught up in the commotion the holidays bring with all the extra commitments, emotions and expectations, making it easy to lose focus. Before you know it, stress and depression have taken over and it’s tough to dig yourself out, especially for those already dealing with mental health issues. It may sound simple, but what can help is to remember what matters most in life.

Here are some reminders to keep you focused on what’s important this holiday season in order to stay healthy both mentally and physically.

Keep it Real. As much as you may want the holidays to be perfect for you and your family, let’s be realistic… they aren’t. And that is ok! When life throws you a curve ball in the way of travel delays from the icy Minnesota roads, poor health or an unfortunate accident, try to adjust and go with the flow. Even your long-standing holiday traditions over the years may need to adjust to accommodate changes that come your way. Who knows, you just may find a new favorite tradition!

Plan ahead. Schedule time to do your shopping, baking and extra activities. If you don’t plan out your day, it will easily get away from you and then you’ll be rushing to get things done or end up forgetting something important. If you’re unable to leave a senior or someone with mental health issues that you’re caring for, consider respite.

It’s ok to say no. Decide in advance what is important to you, your family and the seniors in your life, then stick to your plan. You are not a superhero with more hours in your day as your secret weapon so instead, attend the events that are important to you. Spend time with the people you love most and who feed your soul, paying careful attention to avoid those that bring negativity into your life. Your spirit will thank you.

Be Healthy. Daily exercise, good sleep and healthy eating habits will keep you feeling your best this holiday season. It’s ok to treat yourself to the cookies and indulgent meals, but don’t over do it. Weight gain will lead to depression and low self-esteem, which in turn will prevent you from feeling your best. Don’t forget to carve out some time for yourself – take care of yourself first.

Set a Budget and Stick to It. The joy of gift giving will fade quickly if you know you will be buried in debt when the holidays end. Instead, determine a budget that works for you and stick to it. If money is tight, be creative with your gift giving. You can make a donation or volunteer your time to a charity in someone’s name, give the gift of spending time together or give homemade gifts. Your loved ones will appreciate this too, especially homebound seniors.

Volunteer. Volunteering your time is a great way to help those who are less fortunate. There are so many great non-profit organizations in Minnesota that need a little extra help during the holiday season. Volunteering teaches your children the invaluable lesson to give back to their church and Minnesota community. It makes you feel good inside and keeps the holiday spirit alive.

Seek Support If You Need It. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for help if you need it. Spending time with family, friends and your community is helpful in staying healthy, but sometimes you need a little more support. At Healthstar Home Health, we offer Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) for adults 18 years and older who have a qualifying mental illness and are eligible for medical assistance that want to improve their life. ARMHS is not case management or traditional therapy, but instead is mental health services aimed at teaching you skills for managing your mental health symptoms and can get your through the busy, unpredictable holiday season. Contact HealthStar directly by calling 651-633-7300 and ask to speak to a professional in the ARMHS department.